Emmy Martin and Hanley Long (Photos courtesy FSGA, TGA)
Hanley Long has been playing the Tennessee Women’s Amateur since she was barely into her teen years. She’s played it so many times, in fact, she’s lost track of her starts. Sometimes, for a player with roots as deep in her golf community as Long’s are in the Tennessee Golf Association, the stars seemingly align for such an occasion.
As Long, 22, begins transitioning toward a professional career at the end of the summer, she figured that the Tennessee Women’s Amateur would be her final amateur start. The event changed from match play to stroke play this year, a format in which Long is much more comfortable.
True to form, the former Middle Tennessee State player hit a shot to 10 feet out of the greenside bunker on the final hole at Black Creek Club in Chattanooga, then made the clutch putt with a fist pump to punctuate it. After opponent Malia Stovall missed her birdie putt that would have forced a playoff, Long won this event for the first time.
It was a long time coming, which is a statement she echoes emphatically.
“To say the least,” she said, “to saaaay
When Long tells the story of that back nine, it’s fast and loud. Her dad Joey was on the bag that day and her college coach was in the gallery. “All you need is one,” her MTSU coach Chris Adams said after Long had struggled to get putts to fall during the start of the day.
Her dad, inside the ropes for a rare occasion – and nervously smoking cigarettes to keep calm– decided to retire his caddie gig as Long moves on to the next level.
“It’s kind of the most storybook ending I could get,” Long said. “…I don’t think it’s just a win that I can celebrate, it’s a win that so many other people are super stoked to celebrate with me and be proud of me.”
College players who want to play professionally don’t often play state amateur events with Q-School on the horizon. Long, however, isn’t like most college players. She grew up playing in Tennessee junior golf events, then working those same events. She made relationships with people working at the Tennessee Golf Foundation. She’s invested.
“You’re going to remember the sentimental value of a win, not how much money you made,” she said. “This win means more than me finishing in the top 20 and getting $1,000.”
Long’s professional career will start on the level on which her amateur career ended – at least marginally. She plans to play the Tennessee Women’s Open July 25-27 at Stonehenge Golf Club in Crossville, Tenn.
After she delivers that news, she pauses.
“Wouldn’t it be crazy if I won both?”
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Emmy Martin’s golf legacy will be so much bigger than the Florida Women’s Amateur title she won on June 16, but for now, that’s a good place to start.
Before plotting her way through the match-play bracket at the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla., Martin, 23, hadn’t played a competitive tournament for a year.
“It was a very, very weird transition year for me,” said Martin, who won the 2017 Harder Hall Women’s Invitational.
Martin used up her eligibility at TCU, where as a junior she set a TCU season record with her 72.9 stroke average, a year before finishing up a bachelor’s degree in Communications. She stayed on as the team manager and completed an internship with the team’s communications director. Martin, nicknamed Hollywood by her TCU coach for her tendency to big wear sunglasses on the golf course, kept up the team’s social media accounts and kept stats, among other things. It was an odd feeling being around the team but not competing.
It also left very little time to play golf. Martin still knew she wanted to enter Q-School once she had a degree in hand, so the summer became about getting her game back together. A year ago, she had made the match-play bracket at the Florida Women’s Amateur but had to withdraw during stroke play for family reasons.
“I knew it was a big event and there was a lot of golf to be played and I’m trying to get back in the swing of playing in tournaments,” she said.
The state amateur felt something like a college event. Martin had to get past LSU’s Kendall Griffin and UCF’s Elizabeth Moon in the final two matches. Both women took her to the 18th hole.
“I knew going into both of them that they were going to be pretty competitive matches just because Kendall and Elizabeth are such good players,” she said. “…I knew it was going to come down to who could make the most birdies.”
Martin is the first post-college amateur to capture the championship since Meghan Stasi did in 2012.
Martin's next objective? LPGA Q-School. The first stage begins in California in August. But Martin also has a philanthropic side project in the works, as many LPGA players do. Martin’s goal is to provide the same kind of opportunities she has had in golf to girls coming into the sport. The mission has a green element, too.
Martin bundles all the old t-shirts she’s gotten from junior tournaments into a hat with a bow tied around them and passes them out to younger girls, “just to encourage girls to play golf and to do whatever it is, work at it with all your heart.” She named her initiative “Played with Heart,” and hopes that the little bundle will inspire a girl to pick up golf.
The idea has been in the works for a few years, but with so many things going on, Martin is just now getting it off the ground. A former teammate created a logo for her and she has a web site in the works
Martin accepts donations of gently used clothing, shoes, towels and other golf items that she can pass on through her charity.
“Those were the best four years,” Martin said of her golf career at TCU, “and so golf has given me so much and I feel so blessed to have the experiences I’ve been given through it. I just want to help give other girls the same opportunity.”
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CREATING PLAYING OPPORTUNITIES:
Donna Andrews, the longtime professional and renowned instructor, is a state treasure in Virginia golf circles. She was inducted into the VSGA Hall of Fame in 2017. Just last month, Andrews, 52, finished T-14 at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
“I’ve always admired her career and followed her,” said Boodie McGurn, a player in her own right and a VSGA board member. For women like McGurn – a 65-year-old who won the 2003 VSGA Women’s Amateur and three VSGA Senior Women’s Amateur titles – all the way down to high school golfers, Andrews has been a beacon for what women can accomplish in the game.
Starting this week, “Donna” will also represent playing opportunities. The inaugural Donna Andrews Invitational will be played at Boonsboro Country Club in Lynchburg, Va., from June 23-25.
McGurn was watching a VSGA girls junior event at Boonsboro last summer and began to see the flyers. She signed up immediately, knowing first-hand that women always need more events to play. More and more, the climate is changing in women’s golf to reflect the tournament opportunities that have always been available for men. The Donna helps shift women’s golf in that direction.
“I can play every weekend in the summer if I want to,” she said. “It’s been very healthy and gradually increasing in the summers.”
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LUCY LI WATCH:
We last saw Lucy Li compete in 2018, when she finished eighth at the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina. Later in the fall, Li withdrew from the Rolex Tournament of Champions.
Despite not competing, Li was all over golf headlines in January when her amateur status came into question for her appearance in an Apple Watch commercial series. The USGA issued her a warning, allowed her to retain her status and the whole thing has blown over.
Li was eligible, courtesy of her World Amateur Golf Ranking, for the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April. Six days before the event, however, she withdrew citing injury.
Li competed for the first time in 2019 at the Rolex Girls Junior Championship, an AJGA invitational. She tied for fifth with her 3-under total, which left her 11 shots behind winner Alexa Pano.
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REMARKABLY, A FIRST:
It’s hard to be an underdog when you’re the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world. Florida State’s Frida Kinhult has just traded out the former title for the latter. After a freshman season that put her in the conversation for the Annika Award (named after another very talented Swede), Kinhult has risen to the top of the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
Kinhult becomes the first Swedish player, male or female, to hold the top spot in the WAGR. She effectively swapped places this week with Stanford’s Andrea Lee.
Kinhult told AmateurGolf.com in May that she would return to Florida State for her sophomore season. She is a player driven by the success of older brother Marcus Kinhult, who did not play college golf but is playing professionally. Marcus made the cut at the U.S. Open last week, finishing an eventual T-32.
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TWEET OF THE WEEK
: Well…is it?